On Thursday, December 8, 2011 I attended the Ohio Summit 2.5, which is a conference that showcases what Ohio schools are doing to integrate 21st Century skills and technology in the teaching and learning process. I wanted to attend the conference to hear some of the keynote presenters: Karl Fisch (@karlfisch), the creator of “Shift Happens: Did You Know 2.0”, Daniel Pink (@danielpink), author of A Whole New Mind and Drive, and finally Ewan McIntosh (@ewanmcintosh), Scottish educator. To be honest, I knew nothing of about Ewan McIntosh before the conference, but I was inspired by his message and examples of 21st Century learning. I will share my reflections in a multi-part series.
The conference began with a passionate and encouraging speech by Interim State Superintendent, Stan Heffner. Below are some of the key points from his speech, which are followed by my personal reflections:
“The definition of a student is a person that sits on plastic chairs and watches old people work.”
- I thought this was hilarious! Unfortunately, some students feel this way. This isn’t anything new, but students must be actively engaged in the learning process in order for school to be relevant to them. School has to be a place where students work and adults facilitate, coordinate, guide, support, and encourage.
“Over 75% of students 12-17 years old have cell phones. 34% have a smartphone. A year from now over 60% will have a Smartphone.”
- Why are schools still banning students from using their mobile devices? News flash folks: it’s not just a phone, it’s a mini computer! Ian Jukes once told a story of a student he interviewed. He asked the student, “What do you think of school?” The student replied, “school is like getting on an airplane: ‘fasten your seatbelts and turn off all electrical devices.'” An airplane trip is a very passive activity. School should be just the opposite.
“The key 21st Skills are creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.”
- Again, this is no news flash, but it’s nice to have the skills we’ve been discussing for 11 years now clearly defined. We now must identify ways to embed and assess these skills. Additionally, we have to involve students and parents in the conversation about what these skills mean and look like in action. Many schools across the country have created a graduate profile that defines the skills they want their students to demonstrate as a graduate of their school district. These same schools are beginning to develop rubrics to assess these skills as well.
“We need to stop the minimum competency of schools.”
- Minimum is just that. Years ago, ODE used a phrase, “we must teach our students to thrive, not just survive.” I believe that was one of Thomas Friedman’s catch phrases in the New York Times bestseller, The World is Flat. Minimum competency should not be the goal, but the foundation.
“Stop thinking of school as a place but think of it as an activity.”
- This was probably the most profound statement he made. School as an activity clearly defines what’s expected- ACTION. This is a new paradigm that is catching on quite rapidly in some schools. For example, schools have adopted concepts like Project Based Learning that create challenges for students to overcome and problems to solve. We can learn a lot from the visual/performing arts as well as classes like DECA that are performance and project-based. Students thrive in these courses because they see the relevance, they are challenged, they have an authentic audience, and their work is collaborative and public. School as an activity is quite a concept that is already happening in pockets. Our challenge now is to build on what’s in place.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Mr. Heffner’s points. Stay tuned for key points from the other two presenters in my upcoming blogs. Until then….